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Vince Listens, SmackDown! Wins...
July 25, 2003

by Erin Anderson
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Maybe Vince McMahon listened to me last week when I told him to get the hell off my television screen. Maybe not. But last night, Mr. McMahon's screen time totaled about three minutes, and Smackdown! benefited greatly from his lack of participation on the show.

Or maybe he just realized that the last few months have been dedicated to his feud with Zach Gowen, and he desperately needed to give everyone else some time to set the stage for Vengeance. Either way, I'm happy. Last night's Smackdown! was a hundred times better than last week's episode, and in two hours they managed to set everything up for the pay-per-view quite nicely. A couple of bits were weak or completely pointless, but the good clearly outweighed the bad last night.

The Catfight

Stephanie's opening promo started out just fine, and I welcome any chance for John Cena to get some mic time. Cena smacking Stephanie's ass was enormously stupid, however, and a complete waste of a segment on a show that's trying to prepare for a pay-per-view.

The IWC is quick to jump all over the Stephanie/Sable match, myself included. But I'm going to try and go into Vengeance with an open mind about the match, for a few reasons:

1. Judging by the way she looked last night, Stephanie's obviously been hitting the gym. I'd like to think that she's prepared to make her match more than a catfight.

2. Stephanie v. Trish at No Way Out a few years ago. The IWC bitched and moaned about that one, which turned out to be a extremely entertaining matchup. Perhaps lightning can strike twice in this instance.

I'm holding my breath on this one, and the real x-factor is how much Sable is willing to put into the match. It could either be a guilty pleasure or a total train wreck.

John Cena v. Undertaker

Where the hell has Taker been, anyway? We haven't seen much of him lately, but Cena's got the chops to keep the crowd interested in this match with his promos. His rap this week was fantastic, and fortunately didn't include him pissing on any tombstones.

I can think of only one reason for keeping Taker off the shows and out of the ring for the past several weeks: he's resting and gearing up for the pay-per-view. The Deadman's been looking sharper and in better shape than I've seen him in years since his return at the Royal Rumble, and we'll probably all be pleasantly surprised with his performance this Sunday. He can still look great in the ring with the right competitor, and Cena is the man to bring it out of him. They could even plausibly contend for the Match of the Night, if it weren't for…

Eddie Guerrero v. Chris Benoit

Yeah, I'm drooling over this one.

My fear that the fans might not care about this match subsided last night, when they were given ample mic time to remind the fans exactly why this match will kick 10,000 types of ass. We all knew the history between these two, and those who didn't know got a crash course in Eddie/Benoit 101. Benoit is by no means the best talker on the roster, but he stepped it up in his promo and came off sounding great (and believe me, I usually cringe whenever the man picks up a microphone). As an added bonus, the scuffle between the two set up the best match of the night in Rhyno/Eddie.

WWE still doesn't seem to know exactly what to do with Eddie's status as a face, though, and both Guerrero and Benoit came off as heel-ish in their promos. The intent was to turn the crowd on Eddie, but it simply wasn't enough to get them to boo Latino Heat. Having him lie and cheat won't cut it, since that's what the fans love him for in the first place. If he's going to be a heel, he really only has one other option: piss on the fans. It's the only surefire way to get the audience to hate a wrestler, and if WWE isn't willing to have Eddie do that, then they should just cut their losses and let the man continue to get the biggest crowd reaction of any wrestler on Smackdown! Ditching the low-rider entrance to the ring couldn't hurt, either.

All that aside, this should still be worth the price of the pay-per-view alone.

Billy Gunn v. Jamie Noble

For the love of god, why?

I'll give Gunn a little bit of credit: he looked pretty good in his match last night. But just like HLA, there's no way for this crap to have any kind of satisfactory payoff. If Gunn wins, the Torrie-will-sleep-with-Noble stipulation is pointless. If Noble wins, there's no way that we'll see Torrie sleep with him on next week's Smackdown! UPN won't air it. The match itself should be fairly watchable since Noble's bumping will make Gunn look like a million bucks, but there's no good way to end this angle.

Come to think of it, the mere existence of this angle hurts us all. The Gunn/Noble match last night was mercifully short, and this is hopefully an indication of the amount of time they'll have at Vengeance. It all seems to be a catalyst for Nidia leaving Jamie, and I wouldn't be surprised if she somehow involved herself in the match. But is that event really PPV-worthy? Probably not.

The APA Barroom Brawl

Utter bullshit: guys like Matt Hardy, Rhyno, and Ultimo Dragon were passed up in favor of the Brooklyn Brawler, Doink, and Brother Love. I rest my case.

The Six-Man Tag

Once again, The World's Greatest Tag Team had no interaction whatsoever with Billy Kidman and Rey Mysterio, their opponents for the tag titles on Sunday, and were tied up in the main event with Gowen, Angle, Lesnar, and the Big Show. Their match at Vengeance will no doubt be a pleasure to watch, and the crowd should be into it: Benjamin and Haas already look like veterans in the ring and have a ton of heel heat, while the challengers are always able to pop the crowd.

It's pretty obvious that the tag titles aren't going to change hands on Sunday, given the lack of build-up to the match. I'll venture a guess and say that Kidman will instead turn his back on Mysterio, setting up a feud for the cruiserweight championship. Kidman's been way too nice to his tag-team partner lately, and Rey hasn't defended his title since his rematch with Matt Hardy. $20 says Kidman and Mysterio face off at Summerslam.

Angle and Lesnar both looked stellar last night, and I have no doubt that they'll be able to carry a motivated Big Show to a good match this Sunday. The build-up couldn't have been any better for these three men, and the anticipation of how Lesnar and Angle interact should bring some freshness to a months-old feud. This main event shouldn't disappoint.

And this leaves us with Zach Gowen, who wasn't handled properly in last night's main event. Do the Powers that Be at WWE want us to see Zach as just another wrestler, or will they constantly play the sympathy card with him? Every time we've seen this kid get in some offense on anyone, he's been promptly destroyed by the Big Show or Vince McMahon. I understand the necessity of playing the underdog card with him, but he should be looked at as a wrestler if he's going to have any kind of staying power in the company. So far he's been portrayed as nothing more than a charity case who needs Lesnar, Angle, and Stephanie to protect him from Vince's bullying.

Maybe all the beat-downs he's taken are to condition us to think that he can't hang with the big boys in the ring, and he'll shock us all by dominating his match on Sunday. Unfortunately, he doesn't have the right opponent for that to happen: Vince McMahon isn't a guy that can make any wrestler look good in the ring by bumping all over the place. The match itself should probably be pretty good, since Vince almost always goes out of his way to make a match entertaining. Just look at McMahon/Hogan from Wrestlemania and McMahon/Flair from 2002's Royal Rumble: they were a hell of a lot more fun than they had any right to be. But if Zach is continually booked to look weak, his future in the company probably lies somewhere on Velocity. Good luck, kid.

The fate of Vengeance is really in the hands of the wrestlers, since half of the matches won't automatically be *** or better, given the performers involved. Eddie/Benoit, the tag title match, and the main event should easily give us our money's worth, but the rest of the contests are question marks in terms of watchability. I said last week that Smackdown! is at its best when you just put the wrestlers in the ring and let them have at it, and Sunday is their chance to prove me right.


Erin Anderson is an Atlanta native and a student at Georgia State University. Since writing about wrestling didn't go over too well with her English professors, she vents here at Online Onslaught.

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